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Newz Forum: BASKETBALL: Big Ben Eyes Athens

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posted on Jun, 2 2004 @ 10:41 AM
Ben Wallace is headed to the NBA finals this weekend. Later this summer, he'll head to Athens to play for Team USA, ESPN has learned.

Wallace, the Detroit Pistons' star center, has accepted an invitation to play for the U.S. at the Summer Olympics and now awaits official confirmation.

"They asked me two weeks ago if I would say, 'Yes' to playing on the team, and I said, 'Yes,' " Wallace said prior to Tuesday's Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, which the Pistons won to advance to the NBA finals. "I don't know if they have decided what to do because they haven't announced it yet."

An official announcement is expected at a later date, as U.S. coach Larry Brown, who is also Wallace's coach in Detroit, said the USA Basketball selection committee will have a conference call this week to find replacements for players who have withdrawn from the roster.

Pistons teammate Richard "Rip" Hamilton, a guard, also is expected to be named.

Wallace, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, was named to the All-NBA second team for a second straight time this season.

"Big Ben" is known for his defense and rebounding, but entering Tuesday's game, he was averaging 10 points in the playoffs along with 14.4 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game. Wallace was on the 2002 U.S. team that finished sixth at the World Championships.

Wallace's acceptance comes on the heels of a number of high-profile rejections. Last Wednesday, Brown announced that Tracy McGrady would be the latest NBA star not to play for the team.

McGrady joined Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Elton Brand and Kenyon Martin among players who have withdrawn from the team or have told the selection committee they would not accept invitations.

The U.S. roster now includes Mike Bibby and Stephon Marbury at point guard, although Bibby has been wavering in his commitment; Allen Iverson and LeBron James, as well as Hamilton, at shooting guard; Richard Jefferson and Shawn Marion at small forward, Amare Stoudemire and Tim Duncan at power forward; and Wallace at center.

Jermaine O'Neal, who injured his knee in Game 4 against Detroit, said after the Pacers' 69-65 loss to the Pistons on Tuesday night that he likely would not play for Team USA this summer because of what's turned out to be a small ligament tear in his left knee. Detroit defeated Indiana in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to move on to the NBA finals, where they face the Los Angeles Lakers.

Brown has said he would like to add veteran shooting guard Reggie Miller to the squad.

"They sent me a list of people that they were going to discuss," Brown said, "and there were a lot of deserving guys: (Ron) Artest, Michael Redd, Richard (Hamilton), Eddie Jones, but I think they're waiting to find out what positions are needed to be filled, how many big guys we have, how many small forwards we have, how many guards."

"I think we've got some good players, some good alternatives, so we'll see."


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